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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Be Matir Neder

I had lived in Norfolk for a while when I met a “frum looking” Jew that I had never seen before. After the usual greetings, I asked him if he would like to spend some time learning with me once or twice a week. He responded in the affirmative and soon he was coming to my house two evenings a week to learn Mishnayos. It turned out that he had spent some time in yeshiva, was observant, wore a Yarmulke, kept all of the mitzvos, davened three times daily and learned regularly. The odd thing was that he never came to shul. Not once.
As we became friends I mentioned that I had never seen him in what was the only Orthodox shul in town. He gave me a vague answer. I suspect that there was another answer too, but not wanting to pry I didn’t pursue the issue.
We continued to learn every week, always at my home. Rosh Hashana came and went. My friend was very much in the High Holiday spirit and had blown the Shofar and davened, but he had still not come to shul.
A day or two after Rosh Hashana as we got together for our learning session, my Chavrusa asked me a favor. “Could you get a Beis Din together for me? I need to annul a vow”. (A Beis Din is a court of law, in this case three adult males). We set a date and place and I promised to be there with my fellow Kollel members.
It turned out that my Chavrusa had made a genuine Neder never to step foot into shul!
As a Halachic Jew he felt that he needed the dispensation of a Court of Jewish Law to allow him to come to shul on Yom Kippur.
We indulged him, and with a ‘Mutar lach, mutar lach, mutar lach” the vow was annulled.
A few nights later at “Kol Nidrei,” a large crowd gathered at Bnai Israel to recite the prayer nullifying any vows made in the past year. I took a peek out of my Talis and saw my chavrusa, a man whose religious landscape had changed with the rejection of a vow.
I still don’t know what kept my Chavrusa away from our shul. I do know that he got over it.
We all have our hang-ups and Mishegassen that are stunting our growth. Sometimes we need to take a step back and say ‘that’s not me – it’s just a vow that I have made’. We need to be “Matir Neder.”

(Originally written for the Norfolk Stories blog)
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Posted on 10/07 at 10:58 PM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Sender Haber

Rabbi Sender Haber is the Rabbi of the B'nai Israel Congregation in Norfolk, VA. He is well known throughout Hampton Roads, having arrived over twelve years ago as one of the original four members of the Norfolk Area Community Kollel. In that capacity, Rabbi Haber was involved in community wide programming, teaching, and outreach. He has inspired many Jews to expand their Jewish identity and increase their love of Torah and commitment to its observance. Everyone who knows Rabbi Haber is touched by his breadth of Torah knowledge and his ability to convey the wisdom of the ages in such a way as to make those esoteric writings accessible to persons of all levels of experience and a variety of backgrounds.

Rabbi Haber has served in a number of capacities during his years in Norfolk. Since 2003 Rabbi Haber has been a teacher of Jewish Studies at Toras Chaim Day School in Portsmouth, teaching boys and girls of all ages, with a focus on Gemara, Halacha, and Chumash. He has also taught at Yeshivas Aish Kodesh and Bina High School in Norfolk, and served as Assistant Rabbi of B’nai Israel for 6 years. He also serves as the Rabbi of the “Lost Tribe,” Tidewater’s Jewish Motorcycle group! While handling all of these responsibilities, he has continued to participate in numerous Chavrusos (one-on-one learning partnerships) covering a wide range of topics and writings.

Rabbi Haber and his wife Chamie have been married for thirteen years. They have four children, Minna (9), Moshe (6), Ely (4), and Akiva Meir, born in August of 2012. They both come from rabbinic families steeped in Torah, Kiruv and Chesed. Rabbi Haber received his Rabbinic Ordination (Yoreh Yoreh) from Rabbi Sender Rosenbloom and Rabbi Mordechai Freidlander of the Jerusalem Beth Din. He was awarded a Teaching Certificate by Torah Umesorah Association for Jewish Day Schools in 2004 and again in 2009. In addition, Rabbi Haber has spent over a decade studying Talmud, Jewish Law, and ethics in some of the world’s most prestigious Yeshivos including Beth Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood, NJ and Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Haber can be contacted through the Synagogue office at 757-627-7358, or through e-mail at